Review: The Cathay Pacific First and Business Class Lounge in Paris (CDG)
While I've never had the pleasure of flying on Cathay Pacific, I've heard great things about how passengers are treated, especially those flying in business or first class. Recently, I discovered that I could get a small taste of the experience — even though I was not technically flying with the airline — when my British Airways flight granted me access to Cathay Pacific's First and Business Class Lounge in Paris (CDG).
I had booked a ticket on British Airways from Paris to London (LHR) so I could connect to my long-haul flight home to Los Angeles. My favorite use of British Airways Avios is for short flights like this, since the carrier uses a distance-based award chart, allowing me to book business class for only 7,750 Avios. I had transferred some Membership Rewards points to my Avios account at the end of 2016 so I could take advantage of an Amex bonus, though I usually transfer points as needed from Chase Ultimate Rewards. Because British Airways is a member of the Oneworld alliance, those few Avios points not only got me a business-class seat, but also access to several partner lounges. Since the Cathay Pacific First and Business Class Lounge was listed on BA's lounge-access page and located near my gate in Terminal 2A, I figured I'd check it out.
After passing through security and making my way along the obligatory route through the duty-free shop, I still didn't seen any signs for the lounge until I exited the land of perfumes and liquors. From there, it was a couple of quick left turns and a short elevator ride up to the salons. The façade of the lounge was gorgeous, a white marble wall accented by dreamy, jellyfish-like hanging lights.
Check-in was also a dream: There was no line and with the desk agent's scan of my boarding pass, I was inside in about 10 seconds. And I was the only one there — on a Thursday morning at 8:30am, the place was empty.
My first impressions — besides how nice it was to have the place to myself — were of the pleasant smell of cooking rice and great views of the tarmac. Cathay Pacific certainly accommodates people who like to look at airplanes, with a line of chairs along the windows, all facing out.
The other seating was a mix of 12 two-top restaurant tables, about 36 boxy leather lounge chairs, a dozen or so stools surrounding a marble bar and five cozy pods, which also faced the windows and sported curved leather and glass with small embedded tray tables. The pods looked great but weren't entirely practical — the tray proved too small to hold a laptop and a plate, and its sole power outlet wasn't enough to charge all my devices pre-flight.
Still, the design of the entire lounge was handsomely elegant and understated; even the bathroom was a notch up, with lights that glowed when you entered and fine marble walls and counters. Two showers were also gorgeous and spacious, even larger than the ones in some Paris hotel rooms I've been in.
Food and Beverage
The whole place was spotlessly clean. All food and drink items were self-serve from a long buffet with real plates and metal cutlery.
Hot breakfast items included scrambled eggs, pork sausage, baked beans and hash browns. The great rice smell came from the pot of congee, which was accompanied by various nuts and sauces.
Baked goods were satisfactory, with pastries and baguettes served under plastic domes next to cold cereal and whole fresh fruit. A chilled area offered lunch meats, cheese slices and six types of packaged yogurt.
Overall, the food quality was pretty good, though I was disappointed to miss out on the noodle bar, with chef-made dishes available from 10:00am — just before my flight left — to 9:00pm.
As for drinks, I was all over the hot and strong coffee that was dispensed from a machine into warmed mugs. Five types of fruit juice sat in a chilled bin next to milk, bottled water, white wine and real Champagne. Three French reds stood near a small row of mid-shelf liquors, with a refrigerator of sodas and three beer options below it. Though I prefer a bartender-crafted Bloody Mary, I had no quibbles with the variety and quality of drinks available.
A business center offered a printer and six computers, each in its own semi-private work area.
Free Wi-Fi connected easily on my phone, while my laptop had a harder time getting hooked up. A splash page wanted me to choose a plan, and even though all were free, it was a little frustrating to be asked repeatedly to log in whenever I opened a new browser tab. This also prevented me from conducting a proper speed test, which I estimated as low, especially considering I had no competition for bandwidth.
An eclectic mix of soothing music ranging from Japanese flute pieces to a female vocalist covering "Blowin' in the Wind," played overhead at a pleasant volume, while one TV showed the news on mute. A monitor displayed flight information but departures were not announced. Newspapers and magazines in multiple languages sat on nearby shelves.
Service was mostly excellent, even though it took longer to clear plates than I would have expected — it's not like there were people waiting for tables. The desk agents walked over briskly to help me when I was looking for the showers, and I never saw any food trays stay empty.
While this was a very nice lounge, it's not exactly the luxury experience I'd expected from the Cathay Pacific brand. The big pluses are the views, the space, the cleanliness and all the complimentary basics — with more comfortable and practical seating and more innovative breakfast food choices, it could be something really special. Throw in improved Wi-Fi speeds and connectivity, and this could be a world-class lounge. Still, I left fully fed and, for the most part, relaxed. I had no regrets about using the extra Avios to get the full business-class experience, especially since my seat on the A320 was exactly the same as I would have gotten in coach but with a tray laid over the middle seat. This lounge was the only real perk of my business-class experience, and one that I look forward to using again.
Have you visited the Cathay Pacific First and Business Class Lounge? Share your own experience with us, below.
All images courtesy of the author.